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January 10, 2021 12:01 am
Seeking to test Jesus, the Pharisees came to Him with questions about divorce and remarriage. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his exposition of the gospel of Mark, showing how Christ's response reveals His commitment to the truth, rather than public opinion.
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Chapter 2 the Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce, there is ongoing controversy in interpreting exactly what Jesus was actually saying here, in his answer. There are many theologians and many churches who will not permit divorce on any ground.
It was an issue then solution is divorce permissible and if it isn't, how should we deal with remembering today on Renewing Your Mind. We returned to Dr. RC Sproul's sermon series from the Gospel of Mark will help us understand Jesus answered to the Pharisees and bring clarity to this important issue in our text today brings us to some of the controversy that rises up historically over the question of marriage and divorce.
Notice in chapter 10 we read that as Jesus is making his way with his disciples from Galilee down to Jerusalem, he enters into the region of Judea in the Jordan area where John the Baptist had been practicing baptism and again the multitudes gathered to Jesus and he taught them and then here come the Pharisees once more, and they come to him with a question and this is the question, is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife. No notice in the text it says that the question is raised, is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife testing him, that is, the Pharisees were not coming to Jesus because they really wanted to know his view on marriage and divorce.
They come to Jesus with this question about the legality of man divorcing woman and we are told that they bring this question to test him what's the test. Walmart doesn't tell us, but really can be one of two things. On the one hand, if Jesus says that it is not lawful for man to divorce his wife and the marrying another there asking that question right in the territory where Herod and Oedipus is the tetrarch and is the one who had John the Baptist executed because John the Baptist publicly decried the illegitimate divorce and remarriage of Herod to Herodias, which we've already looked at in the text of Mark and so now they come. The Jesus said is all right for man to divorce his wife. If Jesus says no that messages going straight back to Herod and the Pharisees can hope that the same fate that befell John the Baptist when he question the legitimacy of Herod's divorce and remarriage now might befall Jesus. That's probably what the test was the other possibility is that at this time in Jewish history. There was an ongoing theological controversy among the rabbis concerning marriage and divorce, and that dispute had to do with the understanding of Old Testament legislation with respect to divorce. Let me go back into the Old Testament for a moment and read the passage that was in view among the rabbis in the Torah and the book of Deuteronomy chapter 24 we read these words beginning in verse one, when a man takes a wife and marries her. And it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her and he writes her a certificate of divorce puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house when she has departed from his house and goes and becomes another man's wife if the latter husband the test her and writes her a certificate of divorce puts an ancestor out of the house, or if the latter, husband dies, who took her as his wife then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back because she's been the file but this is an abomination before the Lord.
Now here in the legislation of Deuteronomy the rules for divorce are set forth, and the violation of those rules is said by God to be an abomination to the people of God. Now here was the dispute among the rabbis what constitutes the unclean thing that is mentioned there in Deuteronomy as the grounds the legitimate grounds for divorce. Other translations read by the way, besides unclean thing shameful thing.
Now what is not in the text of Deuteronomy is the specific sin of adultery. The Jews already had a provision for adultery and that was execution. So if a man's wife committed adultery didn't have to bother with the divorce he could just have her stone to death and I would be the end of it and remember how that was still in effect when Mary's pregnancy became known to Joseph in the want to be merciful and wanted to put her away privately so that the scandal of alleged adultery wouldn't accompany her name, but that indicates how this viewpoint was still in existence. By the time of the birth of Jesus.
But again the theologians debated what is an unclean thing, and there were two schools of thought among the rabbis, the conservatives and the liberals let a gentleman there always conservatives and liberals in those who interpret the word of God and everything else as far as that is concerned. Now the samurai school.
I was the conservative school argued that the only thing that would justify a divorce would be some shameful act of sexual infidelity. Anything less, than that was not to be viewed as grounds for divorce and the couple even though they may be fighting an unhappy and someone would have to stay together. On the other hand, the Hillel school and you've heard of was the liberal rabbinical school and they took a much broader view to interpreting what Deuteronomy means by the unclean thing, and so those advocates of the Hillel school said anything that a woman does that embarrasses her husband disgraces him or even displeases in would be under this broad rubric of shameful or unclean thing, and so the Hillel school gave virtually any grounds for divorce. Rabbi Akiba made the observation that if a wife breaks a dish that her husband liked that. That shameful act would be legitimate grounds for divorce and so you have the narrow view on the one hand, and the extremely liberal view on the other hand, we know that in the days of Jesus. For the most part, the prevailing view was the view of the school of Hillel. The liberals had for the most part one the day. That's why Herod Oedipus could get away publicly as the tetrarch with the illegitimate divorce that he was involved with. So you see it's either a political trap that they've laid for Jesus or a theological trap because of Jesus again sides with the liberal school. Suddenly the Pharisees will become conservatives and say Jesus is going against the law of Moses, or if they side with the conservative school than they can say Jesus is going against public opinion so there's no way that Jesus can win as this trap has been set for him either politically or theologically, Jesus you know was never much concern with appeasing public opinion or political correctness to appease the theologians or the politicians his meat and his drink was to do the will of the father. He was concern for truth and for holiness so let's hear how Jesus responds to this question he answered and said what did Moses command you. He points them right back to the word of God and they answered, saying, Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and to dismiss her. The one thing that both schools of thoughts among the rabbis took out of that was that. However, divorces were to take place. It was absolutely essential that there be a certificate given to the woman, that certificate was necessary to prove that she was duly divorced so that she would be able to be remarried. See questions about marriage and divorce always have the attending question of remarriage associated with it. And so they both agreed that the certificate of divorce was necessary and Jesus answered and said to them, because of the hardness of your heart. He wrote you this precept, but from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.
He is referring now back to the institution of marriage in Genesis.
The two shall become one flesh so that they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore not. Here's our Lord's conclusion what God has joined together, let not man put asunder or separate the how as plain as it seems that Jesus answers this question set before him. You would think that from there on. After this discourse that the Christian church despite the teachings of the Jewish rabbis would be completely united in their view of marriage and divorce and have a completely united understanding of what Jesus taught here in this passage would that that were so, but we still have battles every day between conservatives and liberals on this whole question of divorce, I might add to it that there is ongoing controversy in interpreting exactly what Jesus was actually saying here, in his answer. There are many theologians and many churches who will not permit divorce on any ground mill call attention to this passage and I say here in the text. What Jesus does is abrogates the Old Testament provision that was given as it were begrudgingly by the author of marriage God, and he allowed this practice of divorce on certain grounds only because of the hardness of the hearts of the people that God accommodated human wickedness to let people out of marriages that were defined by hardened hearts and giving some respite to people having to suffer in their such conditions. But Jesus then points them beyond Deuteronomy goes back to creation said. But that's not the way it was intended. When God instituted marriage originally hear me, but because you won't hear me because when her Jesus. There were no provisions for divorce. None marriage was intended to be forever the marriage vows did not say as long as we stay in love as long as we get along as long as we remain faithful. The marriage vow is as long as we both shall live.
Now at this point, I'm carrying coals to Newcastle. You all know that and you all know that's what you promised when you got married and on your wedding day you weren't making plans for divorce as you understood that that sacred institution instituted by God is indeed regulated by his commandments. And Jesus said originally there were no provisions and because he said that many theologians say Jesus abrogates the loophole of Deuteronomy and is now restoring the original view of marriage, so that in Jesus view. There are no grounds for divorce whatsoever. That would be I would say an enticing understanding of this text, except for one major problem and that is in the parallel treatment of the question in Matthew's gospel when Matthew talks about the Pharisees bringing this same test before Jesus when Jesus answers the question their listener what he says in Matthew 19 verse eight he said to them, Moses because of the hardness of your heart permitted you to divorce your wives bought from the beginning it was not so. It's the same point that is recorded by Mark and so I say to you, whoever divorces his wife except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery in Matthew's account we have here in the God breathed New Testament what we call the accept of clause where Jesus still permits divorce, but he defines what are the permissible grounds for divorce and that the permissible grounds are defined in terms of Jesus interpretation of the Mosaic law where Jesus interprets the quote unclean thing in terms of what the text I just read from identifies as sexual immorality.
So, most churches, though not all by any means.
Historically, in light of the accept of clause here allow for divorce on the grounds of sexual immorality. Many churches defined that sexual immorality strictly in terms of adultery, marital infidelity, and the other grounds are denied except for those added by the apostle Paul in the case of a marriage where one partner is a Christian and the other was a non-Christian and the non-Christian leaves the Christian or abandons and desserts.
The marriage and so there.
The other reason given in most churches is the desertion of the on believer. That's why it's so important when divorce cases come up in the church that the church has to make a decision as to who was the guilty party. And if that decision is made, and a person is seeking to divorce their spouse without biblical grounds and the church institutes church discipline and calls that person to repentance and the person refuses to repent and goes ahead and does the divorce then that person is to be excommunicated and called an unbeliever for the sake of the partner who has been deserted or abandoned, but that's a whole another question to be treated like again I said I wish everybody would agree on this, but now the debate is even among churches. The grant divorce on the grounds of sexual immorality.
The question is what is encompassed in the term that Jesus uses here the term that Jesus uses here is the Greek word for Nita from which we get the English word pornography. So Jesus said basically the only grounds for divorce. Here is the commission of Cornelia now.
What's that if you go to Greek lexicons to Kittle's theological dictionary of the New Testament and look carefully at the full treatment of the term Cornelia. You will see that many scholars believe that the term cornea is simply a synonym for adultery. Other scholars argue that know the Greek word cornea encompasses more than actual adultery and should be interpreted by the term sexual immorality, and so where Jesus comes down on this is at the point of a sexual violation of the sanctity of the marital union limit just quickly say why is it why does God even permit that one of the things I deal with all the time. The church can be a mannequin be a woman but one partner goes on commits adultery. The other partner finds out about and is ready to sue for divorce and the partner comes back and says oh I'm so sorry and repentance in tears. The question is if the husband does that.
What is the wife's responsibility must she taken back you asked that the evangelical Christians, 99/100, will answer it by saying yes if the guilty spouse, repentance, then that person must be accepted back in the marriage.
I disagree with that. I think if the guilty spouse repents the innocent spouse is now obligated to receive that spouse as a brother or sister in Christ, but not as a spouse because God gives the provision for ending the marriage. If the trust that is at the very heart and foundation of that marital union is violated, but sometimes we put heat on people say well it's not right for you divorce your husband no matter what he's done. Beloved, we cannot take away rights from people that Jesus gives to them or that God gives up her minister say people while yeah here allow to get a divorce, but I think you should take the higher ground and stay, and then we put a guilt trip on people who God allows the head divorce, but the big problem in our day is the problem of people, even in the church getting divorced over every reason in the world other than the ones the Bible allows that God allows us to end our marriage is when they have been violated by sexual immorality is an amazing condescension to human sin but that condescension does not go so far as no-fault divorce or divorce on the grounds of incompatibility now again enclosing limit, just save us. How this principle is applied to real concrete situations is one of the most difficult questions of church ever has to address I've always advocated that every church have a group of experts in biblical ethics who study and give a judgment and verdict on every single case that comes before because I've never seen two cases, the same and it takes the wisdom of Solomon to apply these principles to concrete life situations, but our problem in our day today is that we've lost touch with something that God has called holy a gift from his hand that is at the very foundation and fabric of human society. There is no more basic unit to civilization and culture. Then the family and though the whole world goes crazy with that institution. Let every Christian determine to be committed to the sacred institution of as each year passes, we see the institution of the family being further rooted in the we've heard an important plea today from Dr. RC Sproul here on Renewing Your Mind each Sunday on the Lord's day edition of our program. We return to our C's verse by verse sermon series from the Gospel of Mark getting to know Jesus and his disciples more and as we heard today were were better understanding God's heart on important issues like marriage and divorce. Let me encourage and request our resource offer today. It's Dr. Sproles commentary on this gospel you will find easy to read explanations of every verse in this nearly 400 page hardbound volume with your financial gift of any amount to look at her ministries.
We will be glad to send it to you. You can make a request online and Renewing Your Mind.or Jesus had much to say about the issues that we face today.
That's why it's important to be in our Bibles daily useful resource for your study is our devotional magazine table talk. Each monthly issue focuses on an important biblically related topic like truth what is truth misunderstood doctrines and finding the will of God in the daily guided Bible studies provide you with a wonderful routine for remaining grounded in God's word. You can learn more and subscribe by going to table talk magazine.com but we have to give up our earthly goods in order to be saved might seem that way. Depending on how we read the story of the rich young ruler. I hope you'll join us as we returned to Mark chapter 10 next Sunday here on Renewing Your Mind